2007 Telluride Film Festival
The last movie we saw at Telluride, in fact at the ATFF, or After Telluride Film Festival, was Brick Lane, a movie about a woman’s ambivalent journey from Bangladesh to London, and her arranged husband’s ambivalent journey back. It is based on a book by Monica Ali.
It is the story of a precocious Bangladeshi woman who has a marriage arranged to an “educated” man living on Brick Lane in London. She arrives there and makes a life for herself, but dreams always of her village life and the fun she had growing up. In time she meets a charismatic young man who turns into a strong community leader as fall out from the World Trade Center bombings makes life even more difficult for the Muslim community. It is overall a well constructed story about the difficulties faced by recent immigrants and their children as they adapt to a foreign and often hostile new home.
Bikur Ha-Tizmoret is the story of an Egyptian police band that gets lost in Israel on their way to the opening of an arab cultural center. The movie covers just about 24 hours, from when the band lands to the time they get to their final destination, by way of a culture-less town in the middle of the desert. In the brief time they’re lost, they all grow, develop schisms, heal them, and become more complete people while making a small contribution to healing the Arab/Israeli rift.
Ronit Elkabetz is absolutely enchanting as Dina. She completely owns the screen. She’s gorgeous and funny; her every expression is adorable. One could watch her for hours.
The Band was by far the funniest movie in the festival with a command of subtle, dry humor. I recommend it highly.
Wind Man is a film from Kazakhstan about a small village on the steppe visited by both Death and an Angel. It’s funny and generally light-hearted, but the character development is weak and one is left feeling a bit unconcerned about the various deaths, some of which should be sad, but just aren’t.
I’m not familiar enough with the genre to really get the tropes, but Carolyn is and tells me that people find these crude comedies comforting, like sitcoms, as the same actors appear over and over in typecast rolls. While the movie is interesting and abstract enough to reach a global audience, it probably plays a lot better to a local one.
Not really Wings of Desire on the steppe.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a Romanian film about two college roommates dealing with one’s unwanted pregnancy and the trials the two go through to get an illegal abortion in pre-revolutionary Romania. The movie is very suspenseful and in places somewhat difficult to watch. Carolyn objected to the unrealistically trivial representation of the physical effects of the abortion on the woman who needed it, but the story is more about the afflicted girl’s friend, played by Anamaria Marinca, and the trials she suffers in support of her friend. The performances are all strong and the movies pacing is generally good.
Early Sunday morning we drove up to the Chuck Jones cinema at the top of the hill to see a tribute to Shyam Benegal, and his film Bhumika.
Shyam is a wonderful person. We crossed paths with his wonderful wife, Nira, many times over several days. They were always gracious and fascinating.
Indian melodramas generally fall into a class of films I have little patience for, but this is a genuinely good film about India’s Tallulah Bankhead, Hansa Wadkar who somewhat daringly (for the time) lived by her own rules and become a major Indian film star.
The film starts with Indian dancing girls in the Bollywood tradition, which is always fun, and goes on to tell the story of this daring woman’s life, her strong grandmother, her disapproving mother, her arranged marriage, and her genuine loves and affairs. Smita Patil is really wonderful as the lead: beautiful and funny and sweet.
Saturday evening we saw Jar City. It was a fairly traditional detective story with some nominally successful comic elements. Apparently it was the most popular movie in Icelandic history, meaning 100,000 Icelanders saw it, an entire third of the country’s population. But before that we saw a Korean film, Bound by Chastity Rules, which was directed by Shin Sang-ok, famous for possibly having been kidnapped by the Kim Jong Il. That was also the most interesting part of the film which was otherwise a somewhat tedious melodrama about a horny widow and her nasty mother-in-law.
Jar City was proceeded by Nash Edgarton’s short film “Spider,” which was screamingly funny. Literally. You can watch it on-line here.
Jar City (originally Myrin) is a story of rape and murder with a twist in that the rapist carried a very unusual genetic deviation, which was transmitted to the progeny of his “victims.” The plot device revolves around a somewhat controversial plan to genetically map every citizen of Iceland, and that the only expression of the genetic deviation is within this one lineage. Another interesting element is a measure of moral ambivalence around the rape itself.
The acting is very strong, especially the lead, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. The story holds together and is successful in leading the viewer along the adventure with a number of generally unexpected twists and turns. Perhaps the funniest character was Theódór Júlíusson as Elliði, the dangerous tough guy in the film.
Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is an excellent movie. It is the story of Christopher McCandless’ ill-fated coming of age journey. It was a story I followed as it was a news oddity about a kid who walked off into the Alaskan wilderness ill-prepared and died, and more fully explored (apparently) in Jon Krakauer’s book.
The movie showed a far more complex story of a young man who’s crisis of faith in the economic and political assumptions of suburban society drove him to seek a deeper meaning. Far from being ill-prepared he thrived for years in his adventures and met and influenced many people along the way, literally changing their lives by his own living example, apparently even more so than the movie had space to fully explain.
Emile Hirsch is really excellent as Alexander Supertramp, giving a believable and engaging performance all the way through. He is likable and compelling and goes through some pretty amazing physical changes during the course of his adventures.
Everything about the movie works, from the funny characters and light moments to the bitter and tragic end. The movie even succeeds as a nature film with extraordinary footage of the wild places he visited and particularly gorgeous footage of Alaska.
Blind Mountain is a Chinese film about a college educated woman who is tricked into visiting a remote village on the pretense of looking for medicinal herbs and is instead sold into bondage as a slave-wife.
The film succeeds in sustaining a sense of danger and tension from the opening to the final frame, literally. The heroine is also well-treated, portrayed as respectable, strong, and intelligent she makes good and logical choices – that is despite the horror and tension of the situation, she is not reduced to being a horror movie victim. The film also explores the lack of overt malice and moral ambiguity of the captors, and makes a case for why previous victims might have chosen to accept their fate, adopting a tolerable life amidst the incredible beauty of the Western mountains of China.
Julian Schanbel introduced the late showing of the film in his pajamas. He was funny and earnest and very open about the emotions behind the movie with respect to the death of his own father. The introduction set the tone for the movie which is similarly inspiring, honest, and deeply moving, though perhaps not quite as much so as he promised. It’s a wonderful story of courage and strength and inner resolve and tragedy. And moments of great levity. Mathieu Amalric is brilliant.
We had a bit of discussion about the translation of scaphandre to “diving bell,” it’s not quite apropos to the movie and is not the literal apparatus shown in the movie, but far more euphonious than “The Hardsuit and the Butterly”
We saw this really amazing film by an Iranian film maker, based on the graphic novel Persepolis. The film was the best we’ve seen so far. I really wonderful relief from some fairly indulgent films. A tribute to Pierre Ressient that was technically rough and really only engaging for the extended family. More of a home movie tribute than a film, though Pierre himself is quite amazing and his nebulous yet defining influence on the film industry is astonishing.
We also saw Werner Herzog’s travelogue of his vacation to Antarctica as a resident artist at McMurdo, Encounters at the End of the World. He’s a brilliant enough that his travelogue is interesting, but primarily just beautiful and occasionally funny.
Persepolis is a brilliant film. The characters are engaging and fun and adorable; more compelling and human than any animated film I’ve seen, and more so than most live action films. The story is tragic and painful and challenging and yet very real and despite being a devastating critique of Muslim rule in Iran, and a painfully honest indictment of the Shah, of British meddling, of the US influence in the Iran/Iraq war, and a sharp social critique of expat life, it was intimately apolitical.
Marjane Satrapi spoke after the film and is as quick-witted and funny as her characters. She was an absolute delight to listen to.